Today's blog was contributed by Tung Huynh, one of our Community Managers dedicated to helping clients leverage the Bazaarvoice solution. As a Community Manager, Tung works closely with his clients to help them achieve their community engagement initiatives. Here, Tung interviews Paige Malling, an Interactive Marketing Manager for The Home Depot Canada, on their recent success with Ask & Answer, which they enthusiastically call Answer Depot.

1. Tell us a little bit about Answer Depot.
The Answer Depot is something that we’re all very proud of at Our version of Ask & Answer allows community members to ask questions and share answers about products, product categories and general home improvement topics. It lives on the category level which lets our community members discuss everything from the best charcoal grill to the newest faucet design.

2. What is your role with Answer Depot?
As Interactive Marketing Manager, I am responsible for overseeing all advertising and community initiatives for including Answer Depot. However, I’m not the only one involved in Answer Depot because this community extends far beyond marketing for us. The information that we gather through Answer Depot is valuable to many members of our team including merchandizing, operations, user experience – just about everyone!

3. How has The Home Depot's community responded to the launch of Answer Depot?
Our community is in love with Answer Depot. Our volume of questions is growing very quickly and customers love the interaction that Answer Depot affords them. The thing that delights us the most is the expertise and depth of knowledge of those answering questions. We have community members who are retired plumbers, professional contractors, electrical experts – it runs the full gamut of experts. We also have The Home Depot suppliers weighing in and helping answer questions.

4. In general, how long does an "asker" wait before receiving an answer?

Generally, an answer is posted within one or two days of the question appearing on the site.

5. Does The Home Depot ever answer any questions?
For us, the Answer Depot is a tool for community members to discuss amongst themselves about home improvement issues. We only participate when we feel that we can answer a question that community members cannot, things such as product availability or delivery, etc. But when we do weigh in to a conversation, we make sure to properly identify ourselves as members of The Home Depot team.

6. How do you think a Home Depot customer views this relative to asking their questions "the old-fashioned way" (i.e., sending you an email or calling you)?
I think a different kind of need is satisfied with Answer Depot. Customers are not using Answer Depot to resolve customer service issues; they are using it to ask questions and learn from each other. Many customers like to ask others about a product before making a purchase. They can look at all the specifications, warranties and packaging at our site, but ultimately many of us like to have the chance to ask someone else what they think of a product, such as, “Which of these table saws works better?” The Answer Depot is allowing our customers to have this type of rich interaction without ever having to leave our website. It’s like a community meeting place.

7. What was The Home Depot's experience with the technical implementation of Ask & Answer?
The implementation was very smooth without any major glitches. We have also launched in French so we’ve been through the process twice.

8. What's one of the more interesting questions or answers you've come across?
My favourite questions are the ones that generate a lot of discussion and differing opinions. For example, someone asked “Do you need to close off the chimney when you put an electric fireplace in a real fireplace?” It was amazing how many different answers the customer received – some really good advice.

9. What's next for Answer Depot?
So many things! You’ll have to keep coming back to to see; I’m not giving away all our secrets.

10. What advice would you give to other retailers on how to best leverage Ask & Answer?

Think hard about your objective for Ask & Answer and make sure to commit resources to it. You cannot just launch a program like this and walk away. Any online community needs to be nurtured and engaged.

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